At RoadTripSports.com we’re not just about the FBS. We’re about everyone playing college football. Here our Kendall Webb looks at the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), as he reviews the first-round action and provides his predictions for all second-round FCS games.
By Kendall Webb
There were four first-round games in the NCAA’s Football Championship Subdivision playoffs last week, and we broke even on our picks at 2-2.
We picked South Dakota State to handle Eastern Illinois at home, and the Jackrabbits did just that in a 58-10 romp. We also called Wagner in a toss-up at home against Colgate, and the Seahawks came through 31-20.
Central Arkansas (9-2) at Georgia Southern (9-2), Statesboro, GA (2 p.m. ET)
The Southland champion Central Arkansas Bears and their fans weren’t happy with the fact they didn’t get a home game while Southland runner-up Sam Houston State did. They were even less happy with the fact that they had to visit the No. 5 national seed Georgia Southern Eagles in their first game, but the other options weren’t really anymore attractive – trips to Wofford or Appalachian State were really the only other choices. But the Bears are resigned to their fate, and perhaps they can call upon the ghosts of 2006 when a Bears squad in the middle of a transition from Division II to FCS made their first mark in the higher division. On November 18 that year in the season finale, the Bears went to Statesboro and surprised the Eagles 34-31 before they were even considered a full-fledged member of the FCS. Granted, that was a 3-8 Eagles team suffering through its only season under head coach Brian VanGorder, but it was still a surprise at the time that served notice that the Bears would be a contender to deal with in the future. Well, that future is here – and while the Bears certainly felt like they got a bad draw, the same can be said for the Eagles who have to be wondering how they ended up with a national seed and still drew the nation’s No. 10 team in their opening playoff game.
Coastal Carolina’s late-season surge continued with a 24-14 road win at Bethune-Cookman yesterday, and now the Chanticleers move on to face No. 4 national seed Old Dominion. Coastal QB Aramis Hillary directed an efficient offensive attack in which he passed for 180 yards and a touchdown while adding 38 yards on the ground as part of a balanced ground attack that saw two Chanticleers top the 70-yard mark. But they’ll need even more tricks up their sleeves to beat an Old Dominion team that only stumbled once against a tough slate of Colonial Athletic Association teams.
On the same side of the bracket in the other quadrant, the CAA’s New Hampshire Wildcats will make a trip south to play at the Wofford Terriers in another 2 p.m. kickoff. Neither team is seeded, and the winner will have the unlucky task of likely having to face No. 1 national seed and defending national champion North Dakota State in the quarterfinals.
The South Dakota State Jackrabbits got here by destroying Eastern Illinois 58-10 as we noted, and they gave the No. 1 North Dakota State Bison all they could handle in a 20-17 Bison win back on November 10 at the Fargodome. But several close calls down the stretch for the champions proved that this battle-tested defending national champion knows how to close out an opponent. They aren’t unbeatable, and we continue to believe they might not be the best team in the country this year, but they don’t have to be the best team in the country on this day. They just have to be better than this salty JackrabbitsKidd Brewer squad.
On the other side of the bracket, our only 2 p.m. kick comes in Boone, North Carolina where the Appalachian State Mountaineers will play host to the Illinois State Redbirds. Unfortunately for Illinois State, they’ll run into a Mountaineers’ squad on a 7-1 run with the only loss coming to fellow second-round host Wofford back on October 20. Appalachian State teams are built for this time of year with the friendly confines of Kidd Brewer Stadium packing in some of the largest crowds in the FCS.
This is one of those strange cross-sectional matchups that only happen in the playoffs, and for the Wagner Seahawks, it’s an unenviable chore to travel across country and have to face the No. 2 national seed Eastern Washington Eagles. Wagner got here by beating the Patriot champion Colgate Raiders in Staten Island 31-20 yesterday, but the Eagles will be ready at home. The 2011 national champions, Eastern Washington was part of a trio of Big Sky teams that finished 7-1 in what might be the nation’s strongest FCS conference. In other words, the Eagles’ have already run a gauntlet similar to what the FCS playoffs will provide, and Wagner’s 2-3 record outside of the Northeast Conference includes two wins over the Patriot League (including a 31-30 escape against a 2-9 Holy Cross team) – far short of the competition level of the Big Sky.
The defending national runner-up Sam Houston State Bearkats are playing as well as anybody in the country against FCS competition over the last two months, and there’s no reason to believe it won’t carry over to the FCS playoffs. Then again, their opponent this weekend went 7-1 in the nation’s toughest conference (the Big Sky) to finish in a three-way tie atop the standings with No. 2 national seed Eastern Washington and No. 3 national seed Montana State. Yeah, that’s high company, and we expect this to be an entertaining tussle.
Our favorite heading into the playoffs was No. 3 national seed Montana State, but by the time this kicks off, we’ll have waited two weeks to see if that will hold true. The Bobcats didn’t have any highly-rated opponents down the stretch, but their only loss is a 27-24 setback to No. 2 national seed Eastern Washington. That’s as good a resume as any FCS team in the country, and we’d be stunned if they were challenged too much at home by a 10-2 Stony Brook team that stumbled at Liberty with a chance to clinch the Big South a couple of weeks ago. The Seawolves had to play a first-round game against Villanova to get here pulling out a tough 20-10 win, but this might be the toughest road trip in the playoffs this fall.